Posted by: Richard Clarke • Mar 19th, 2009
This post continues the series that show Arunachala’s Inner Path, used by devotees of Sri Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi for the sacred walk around this holy hill. This walking is called pradakshina, or in Tamil, girivalam.
Part One shows the path from Ramanasramam. Part Two shows the walk around the southwest side of the hill. Part Three details the section of the path around Parvati Hill, at the west end of Arunachala. This post is Part Four of the series.
A map is below. The Elephant section of the Inner Path is shown in orange.
Note from the map that this section of the Path has many small streams that cross it. The terrain here features small ‘hills’ as you enter into and out of the creek bed. These creeks are all pretty small, and only have water when it rains.
It is in one of these that Sri Ramana found the banyan leaf, and followed the stream upstream, only to be stung by hornets, and then abandoned his search for the banyan tree.
Starting from the Frog Pond
The Frog Pond is dry by mid March when these pictures were taken. The season is getting hot, so we started early and were here by 7 AM, before the sun rises over Arunachala. The bright sun can be seen behind the ‘trunk’ of The Elephant. We will have sunlight in a few minutes.
The Path starts off across an area pretty dry and flat.
Looking to the right side, first you see the gap between Arunachala and a small hill. There is a path over this gap that is shown in A Path Across Arunachala.
Looking behind is Parvati Hill, and the pass at the other end of the hill. This is where the original Path was. This is shown in the postings: Kattu Siva Path Renewal – Part 1 and Kattu Siva Path Renewal – Part 2 .
Next the Path crosses the first of many creek beds …
Then rises up to the Northside Catchment Basin. Notice that there is a path across the basin that is usable much of the year. Some people take this path here.
The main route of the Path goes to the left, and follows along the dirt berm that makes up the retaining wall for the catchment basin.
Walking across this berm, farmers’ fields come right up to the path. This is the only place where this occurs.
In the photo below, looking over the basin, a big rock can just barely be seen rising through the trees. On the other side of the basin here is a trail nexus where a number of paths go towards and along the mountain side. This is shown better in Under the loving gaze of The Elephant.
There is an old small trail next to the mountain in this area that we call ‘The Inner-Inner Path.’ This will be detailed in subsequent postings. Easy exploration can be done here.
Between the Path and the fields, the farmer has made ‘fences’ of dry thorny branches. This keeps cattle from entering the fields.
At the end of the basin the Path crosses another dry stream bed …
Then goes off across the gentle hills.
In this section a power line crosses the Path. This is the only place where this happens.
Now the sun is starting to rise above the Holy Hill, and there is better light for photography.
The Path lights up …
And crosses yet another creek bed. We walk down and up the little hill.
Looking to the left, the gopuram of Adi Annamalai Temple rises through the trees.
Often this man will be seen, asking for coins. Sometimes it looks like he is working, clearing rocks off the Path and doing other work to improve the Path.
Looking to the left of the Path, not a house can be seen. More mountains rise up on the horizon. There is no motor noise here; all we hear are bird songs.
The Path proceeds across the hillside.
Looking towards Arunachala, a rocky hill can be seen in the foreground, rising from below. More places to explore. I have seen a group here, up on one of the rocks. It seems they were with a teacher and meditating.
Past another creek bed. This on has a stone wall to prevent erosion. These are seen in other places as well. This is all a part of the task of protecting the hillside and bringing as much water into the water table as possible.
The Elephant is in the background. A face of the hill rises in the foreground. Water can be seen flowing down rock faces during the rainy season.
The Path winds on.
We are getting close to the face of the hill that rises here.
Reminding us of the desert-like environment, here is another cactus, well protected from the heat that is soon to come.
Just barely visible here on the hill face is a small white box. This once housed an idol. This idol has been taken by vandals. You can walk up to this spot and get a great overlook of the surrounding area.
On the other side is a steeper area of the rock face. Back towards this hill it is greener, a sign of better water. There is a trail that leads into this greener area. Sometimes village women can be seen carrying bundles of dried grasses down this trail. The local people know the plants that can be used here, and make good use of everything.
Now the angle between the trunk and head of The Elephant has become more acute. This means we are nearing the end this section of the Inner Path. I think of this as the ‘Elephant Compass’ and use the angle as a way to know where I am on the Path.
The Path continues to wind through the countryside.
The ‘Elephant Compass’ gets yet more acute. Getting closer to the end the of the section.
Now, through the trees, houses can be seen far away. Road noise is also sometimes heard.
The Path continues through the dry brush.
Look at the ‘Elephant Compass’ now. Where are we? We’re reaching the end of this section.
Looking back, we can see the hill face rising behind us. There is a big area on this side of the hill that needs to be explored. This will be done in other posting, later.
Down a bit more of the Path.
A stone post with a painted Inner Path marker defines the end of The Elephant section of the path. Sometimes camphor will be seen burning in a pit on the top of this post. Notice that there are paths that lead both to the right and the left here. One set goes towards the road, the other towards the mountain. The Inner Path goes straight, past the post.
The next section of the path, we call ‘Trees.’ We will post this soon.